Hvy.Arty 20 pdr. Parrott Rifle

The 20 Pounder Parrott Rifle was one of the heaviest field artillery pieces of the American Civil War. It was highly accurate, cheap to make, and easy to operate. However, it was soon discovered that some Parrott Rifles, particularly the 20 pounders, were prone to bursting... killing and injuring many artillerymen. The cast iron design of these large rifles just couldn't contain the stresses of firing.

ARTILLERY PROFILE
  • Type: Muzzleloading Heavy Rifled Field Gun
  • In Service With:
    • U.S. Army
    • State of New York
    • U.S. Navy
    • C.S. Army (Copies & Captured Pieces)
  • Purpose: Fortifying Field Positions, Counter Battery Fire
  • Invented By: Robert Parker Parrott in 1861
  • Patent: For Manufacturing Issued October 1, 1861, U.S. Patent # 33,401
  • Rarity: Uncommon

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Macon Arsonal 20-pdr. Confederate "Parrott" Rifle Copies
W. Confed. Ave, Gettysburg NMP, ©Mike Kendra, Dec 2019


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Ranges of Parrott Guns, and Notes for Practice by R.P.Parrott, 1863

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20 pdr. Parrott Rifles of the 1st NY, Peninsula Campaign, June, 1862.

MANUFACTURING
  • US Casting Foundry: West Point Foundry, Cold Springs, NY
  • CS Casting Foundries:
    • Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, VA (45)
    • Macon Arsenal, Macon, Georgia (5)
    • Noble Brothers & Company, Rome, Georgia (Copies ordered, unknown if any delivered)
  • Years of Manufacture: Between 1861 and 1865
  • Tube Composition: Cast Iron, Wrought Iron Breech Band
  • Purchase Price in 1861: $ 380.00 US; $_550.00 CS
  • Purchase Price in 1865: $ 387.00 US; $4500.00 CS
  • Variants: Confederate copies using various manufacturing techniques.
  • No. Purchased During the Civil War: 330 (Army) and 300 (Navy)
  • No. of Surviving Pieces Today: 56 U.S., 14 C.S.
  • Special Notes: Highly accurate, excellent for counter-battery fire, challenging to transport, prone to bursting.
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
  • Bore Diameter: 3.67 inches
  • Bore Length: 79 inches
  • Rifling Type:
    • 5 lands & grooves, 0.1" depth
    • right hand gain twist, 1 turn in 10 '
  • Trunnion Diameter: 4.62 inches
  • Reinforcing Band: Thickness - 1½ inches, Length - 16¼ inches
  • Barrel Thickness: at small of Muzzle - inches; at Vent - 5.415 inches
  • Tube Length: 89 inches
  • Tube Weight: 1750 lbs. (0.8 tons)
  • Carriage Type: No. 3 Field Carriage (1,175 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 2,925 lbs. (1.46 tons)
  • Horses Required to Pull: 8
  • No. of Crew to Serve: Typical - 9, 1 Gunner, 8 Numbered Crew Positions
AMMUNITION
  • Standard Powder Charge: 2 lbs. Cannon Grade Black Powder
  • Projectiles Types: Designed to use Parrott, may substitute Hotchkiss, forbidden to use Schenkl ammunition
  • Projectiles Weights: 20 lbs. solid bolt, 19½ lbs. case, 18¾ lbs. common shell, cannister
  • Typical Number of Projectiles Per Gun: 100: 4 chest with 25 rounds each.
PERFORMANCE
  • Rate of Fire: 1 to 2 rounds per minute
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1,250 ft/sec.
  • Effective Range (at 5°): For shell - 2,100 yards (1.1 miles)
  • Projectile Flight Time (at 5°): For shell - 6½ seconds
  • Max Range (at 15°): For shell - 4,400 yards (2.5 miles)
  • Projectile Flight Time (at 15°): For shell - 17¼ seconds
By December of 1862, General Henry Hunt attempted to eliminate the 20 pdr. Parrott completely from the Army of the Potomac. He wrote, "I have the honor to report that the practice in the recent battle with the 20-pounder Parrott was in some respects very unsatisfactory, from the imperfection of the projectiles, which, notwithstanding the pains which have been taken to procure reliable ones, are nearly as dangerous to our own troops as to the enemy, if the former are in advance of our lines. In addition, the guns themselves are unsafe. At Antietam two of the twenty-two, and on the 13th instant another, were disabled by the bursting of the gun near the muzzle. The gun is too heavy for field purposes, and can be used with advantage only as batteries of position. For the last purpose it is inferior to the 4½-inch siege-gun, which requires the same number of horses and only half the number of drivers. I therefore respectfully propose that, as the allowance of artillery in this army is small, the 20-pounders be turned in to the Ordnance Department as soon as they can be replaced by light field guns."​
Regarding the usefulness of the 20 pdr. Parrott, while detailing siege operations in the Richmond area, Henry L. Abbot wrote, "The 20-pounder Parrott proved to be too small to give the precision of fire demanded of a siege gun, and to be too heavy for convenient use as a field gun. Moreover its projectiles did not seem to take the grooves as well as those of either smaller or larger calibers. The gun was accordingly not regarded with favor."​
Henry L. Abbot wrote about the usefulness of the 20 pdr. while giving details about the siege operations near Richmond, writing, “The 20-pounder Parrott (calibre 3.67 inches) proved to be too small to give the precision of fire demanded of a siege gun, and to be too heavy for convenient use as a field gun.” Because of this issue, and the fact that the projectiles had performance issues, Abbot believed gunners were less enthusiastic about the 20 pdr. "worst of both worlds" Parrott than the more useful 10 pdr. Field Gun and 30 pdr. Siege Gun options.​

The 20 pdr. Parrott Rifles may not have been the best field guns, but they could be produced quickly and in quantity at a time when the Army was desperate for rifles, not necessarily the best rifles, but rifles. When the war was over they were not used again.​

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CivilWarTalk

Lieutenant General
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Managing Member & Webmaster
Joined
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Location
Martinsburg, WV
MACON ARSONAL
20-PDR. CONFEDERATE "PARROTT" RIFLE COPIES


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Muzzle View
20-pdr. Confederate "Parrott" Rifle Copy
Made by Macon Arsenal, of Macon, Georgia
No. 1, Cast in 1864, Weight 1,660 lbs.
Inspected by E.T.
W. Confed. Ave, Gettysburg NMP, ©Michael Kendra, December 2019

1576265310845.png

20-pdr. Confederate "Parrott" Rifle Copy
Made by Macon Arsenal, of Macon, Georgia
No. 1, Cast in 1864, Weight 1,660 lbs.
Inspected by E.T.
W. Confed. Ave, Gettysburg NMP, ©Michael Kendra, December 2019

1576265330488.png

20-pdr. Confederate "Parrott" Rifle Copy
Made by Macon Arsenal, of Macon, Georgia
No. 1, Cast in 1864, Weight 1,660 lbs.
Inspected by E.T.
W. Confed. Ave, Gettysburg NMP, ©Michael Kendra, December 2019

1576265425328.png

20-pdr. Confederate "Parrott" Rifle Copy
Made by Macon Arsenal, of Macon, Georgia
No. 1, Cast in 1864, Weight 1,660 lbs.
Inspected by E.T.
W. Confed. Ave, Gettysburg NMP, ©Michael Kendra, December 2019



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20-pdr. Confederate "Parrott" Rifle Copy
Made by Macon Arsenal, of Macon, Georgia
No. 3, Cast in 1864, Weight 1,654 lbs.
Inspected by E.T.
W. Confed. Ave, Gettysburg NMP, ©Michael Kendra, December 2019

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Rifling Details
20-pdr. Confederate "Parrott" Rifle Copy
Made by Macon Arsenal, of Macon, Georgia
No. 3, Cast in 1864, Weight 1,654 lbs.
Inspected by E.T.
W. Confed. Ave, Gettysburg NMP, ©Michael Kendra, December 2019

 
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Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Since I continually channel Mr. H. J. Hunt, might as well do so here and follow up on what you've included from him. As he made clear, he saw this piece as a poor "tweener" which didn't capably fit either a true field role or a siege role. I recall seeing somewhere (I'll have to check my resources when I get the chance) that the prescribed team for these overweight weapons was eight horses, although I've seen a few photos showing six-horse teams - which must have shortened their already short careers. Baby Huey comes to the field artillery.
 
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